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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #150

"I, Magneto..."
October 1981 

In a Nutshell 
The X-Men attempt to stop Magneto's latest attack on humanity. 

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Dave Cockrum
Inkers: Joe Rubinstein and Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski and Jean Simek
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
From his island headquarters, Magneto issues the leaders of the world an ultimatum: destroy all their nuclear weapons within a week, or face his wrath. As Magneto debates the merits of his actions with a powerless Cyclops and Lee Forrester, the Russian submarine Leningrad launches an array of nuclear missiles at the island, which Magneto easily dispatches before sinking the sub. He then uses a device he's created that allows him to control the Earth's crust to turn the Russian city of Varykino into a volcano in retaliation and as a show of force. That night, as the X-Men are searching nearby for the shipwrecked Cyclops, their jet encounters a magnetic force field that sends it crashing into the ocean. Though the nearby Professor X loses telepathic contact with them, the X-Men survive and begin swimming towards a nearby island.


Colossus, who doesn't need to breathe when in his armored form, walks into the power inhibitor field Magneto has surrounding the island, causing him to transform back into human form and drown. The X-Men reach Magneto's island and are spotted by Lee. Kitty and Wolverine manage to revive Colossus, and Cyclops greets the X-Men, explaining that their powers won't work on the island, but that they can defeat Magneto by destroying the machine that lets him manipulate the Earth's crust. The team splits up, with the men going to destroy the machine while Storm, Kitty and Lee attempt to destroy Magneto's computers. Storm comes across a sleeping Magneto and contemplates killing him, but is unable to do so, just as Magneto awakens and sends Storm crashing through the window.


Xavier attacks Magneto telepathically, but Magneto simply pulls Xavier from his boat and brings him to the island as well. Though the X-Men are able to destroy Magneto's device, he easily repairs it and captures the powerless team. Storm, however, has survived Magneto's attack and manages to destroy the power inhibitor, restoring the X-Men's powers. As the X-Men do their best to hold Magneto at bay, Cyclops sends Kitty to destroy Magneto's computers, ensuring he won't be able to attack any more cities. Kitty phases through the computers, wrecking them, but Magneto breaks off from the X-Men and attacks her. Kitty tries to phase through him, but the energy feedback knocks her out. Magneto, believing Kitty dead and realizing she is just a child, is shocked out of his fury, and realizes that for all his good intentions, his crusade has caused undue suffering for innocents. He gives Kitty to Storm and flees. As the X-Men recover on the beach, Professor X reflects that though the X-Men believe the battle was draw, he believes that by changing Magneto's perceptions of who he is, he may emerge a better man.  

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue marks the last appearance of Magneto as a cackling Silver Age style super-villain, and the beginning of his transformation into, if not a hero, than at least an understandable, three-dimensional villain. So much of what defines the character to this day, from his connection to the Holocaust to his relationship with the X-Men and Xavier, begins in this issue (Magneto also spends a good deal of this issue helmet-less, which helps downplay the one-dimensional super-villain aspect).

As such, it is made clear in this issue that Magneto is a survivor of the Holocaust, as he specifically mentions being a prisoner at Auschwitz.


Magneto also commits his most quantitatively villainous act this issue, the sinking of the Russian sub Leningrad, killing all the sailors aboard (the text specifically notes that while he destroys the city of Varyinko, he allows the city's population to evacuate first). While Magneto most likely wreaked even more havoc in the course of earlier villainous plots, the limitations regarding what could be depicted in those stories at the time prevented any real sense of the causalities involved from being depicted. As a result, the sinking of the Leningrad will become something of an albatross around Magneto's neck in the future as he tries to redeem himself, and will be referenced several times throughout Claremont's run.


Cyclops is considered to officially rejoin the team with this issue, though no official pronouncement along those lines is ever made (this isn't the Avengers, after all).

Professor X isn't terribly upset that Magneto escaped, hoping he's found a new perspective on his crusade against humanity, which foreshadows both Magneto's future development and the reveal of the Xavier/Magneto friendship.


Angel's head has been removed from the corner box in the upper left side of the cover. 

A Work in Progress
Magneto finally gets around to asking Cyclops why he's been making googly eyes at Lee Forrester instead of Jean Grey, prompting Cyclops to tell Magneto about Jean's death, which leads to a nice moment where Magneto expresses his own grief over the death of an honorable foe, and which sets up the reveal of Magneto's connection to the holocaust later in the issue.


Magneto reveals he's created a device which generates an inhibitor field on the island, neutralizing the mutant powers of anyone except for himself. He's also created a device which allows him to manipulate the Earth's crust, allowing him create earthquakes and volcanoes, which he used to raise his island base from the ocean floor.

Dr. Peter Corbeau pops up again, lending his yacht to help Professor X search the Bermuda Triangle for Cyclops. Accompanying them are Carol Danvers and Moira (there is no indication of why Moira is there but not Banshee). Incidentally, Corbeau's boat is named Dejah Thoris II, a reference to Edgar Rice Burroughs Martian novels (Dejah Thoris is a Martian princess who eventually marries John Carter).


It is revealed that Cyclops has told Lee about the X-Men and his involvement with them. 


Kitty learned mouth-to-mouth at camp, and Wolverine knows CPR.


Cyclops has a nice moment where he rallies the X-Men, listing the innate abilities they each posses which Magneto's inhibitor field can't remove.


Later, when Wolverine wonders what the powerless X-Men can do when they've never beaten Magneto with powers, Cyclops explains they only need to stop Magneto's plan, not Magneto himself, meaning they have to target the device which allows him to control the Earth's crust.


In one of the issue's standout scenes, we're reminded of Storm's oath to not take a life as she stands over a sleeping Magneto, knife in hand, debating whether to break her oath and end his threat once and for all.


In the moment which begins Magneto's turn towards redemption, he is shocked out of a berserker rage after attacking Kitty and, believing he has killed her, realizes she is just a child. It is also revealed that Magneto's wife Magda fled from him when she saw him using his power to avenge their murdered daughter, which becomes a crucial piece of his backstory.


I Love the 80s
Magneto's ultimatum to the world's leaders is a veritable Who's Who of 80s political figures, from Ronald Reagan to Margaret Thatcher to Leonid Breshnev.  


More early 80s computer technology:


The X-Men's emergency pack conveniently contains a spare ruby quartz visor for Cyclops.


With a little help from Colossus, Kitty uses the Force to raise the Blackbird.


Claremontisms
This issue is packed with great little Claremontian moments, like Wolverine bumping into Storm as the Blackbird crashes and knocking her out because his skull is metal, or Colossus suddenly reverting to human form as he walks across the ocean floor into the inhibitor field, causing him to drown, or my favorite, when Magneto's costume is revealed to be like chainmail, allowing him to essentially "pour" it on with his power (an image that is one of Cockrum's best in the issue).


Artistic Achievements
I love Cockrum's depiction of Wolverine with wet hair.


Young Love
We get our first indication that Colossus may reciprocate Kitty's feelings for him, as his last thought is of her as he drowns.


The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops
Cyclops' reaction to Kitty "raising" the Blackbird is so hilariously square it cracks me up every time (in fact, that entire scene is a great showcase for Claremont's strength with dialogue: you can tell exactly who is saying what just based on how their dialogue is written).


The Best There Is At What He Does
Later stories will reveal that Wolverine's healing factor helps compensate for the fact that his bones are laced with adamantium, such that he suffers health issues when his healing factor is removed/overworked, and that his hands are cut open whenever he pops his claws, with his healing factor sealing the wounds.


Of course, none of that is on display in this issue, thus we are required, retroactively, to assume that Wolverine was simply ignoring the open wounds left by his claws and that the inhibitor field was shut off before Wolverine could seriously be poisoned by the adamantium in his body.

Chris Claremont on Magneto's evolution
"My Magneto is a totally different person. He has gotten a second chance. He was reduced to infancy, remember, by Alpha, Len's [Wein] evolved mutant. And was since, by Eric the Red, bopped back into adulthood, younger than before, in the prime of his life [#104]...He now has the opportunity to start again with full awareness of the mistakes he made the first time. You know, whatever megalomania he might have had then, he might not have now. Or he might understand it for what it is and cope with it, get rid of it. I changed him because I have no interest in two-dimensional villains, except maybe in a one-shot story, perhaps. But Magneto is the major villain of the X-Men book; he is their opposite number. He should be at least as interesting and credible as they are."

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p34

"I started to wonder, why do people follow him? I started doing what any writer does with a character. I asked, who is he? Where did he come from? Why does he do the things he does? What is his rationale, his origin, his goal? I was having this dialogue with myself - or with Louise [Jones]- about Magneto. How could we explain where he came from within the context of the X-Men? If he's the flip side of Charlie, is there something charismatic, noble, admirable about his desire to conquer the world? ... He had a cause and I tried to figure out where that cause came from. Bearing in mind that I started writing in the 60s, most of the adult characters had been involved in World War II. So if Charles Xavier is a teenager during World War II and a line officer in Korea, Magneto's got come out of the same era. If you're going to play with prejudice and racial conflict, the concentration camps immediately spring to mind. Once the dominoes set themselves up, I just started knocking them down."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p68

John Byrne on the difference between Dr. Doom and Magneto
"Dr. Doom was the noble guy; Dr. Doom was the tortured soul. Roger Stern summed Magneto up best, based on his first appearance: Magneto is the kind of guy who leaves activated atom bombs to cover his escape. This is not a nice guy. This is not a freedom fighter...I always thought that Chris developed his new take on Magneto because we wouldn't let him use Dr. Doom. When I was doing FF, he used Dr. Doom once and did a bunch of stuff that FF editorial hadn't approved, so we wouldn't let him use Dr. Doom any more. So he turned Magneto into Dr. Doom. Chris even said Magneto was a gypsy for awhile there, as I recall."

DeFalco, Tom. Comic Creators on X-Men. London: Titan Books, 2006. p104

Chris Claremont on the difference between Dr. Doom and Magneto
"Doom, to me anyway, is power for the sake of power. Once the power is achieved, he can be the most benevolent of dictators. But all power rests with him. Magneto is fighting for a goal: the preservation, the enhancement, of mutantkind. So of the two, I would say possibly Magneto has the more noble motives, but from there on you're just getting into matters of style rather than substance."

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p32

Teebore's Take
Though the story is a bit rushed (the X-Men learning about Cyclops being lost at sea and Lee learning about the X-Men happen off panel between last issue and this, making it feel like we've missed an issue) and the plotting a bit contrived (despite the setup in issue #149, the X-Men are more or less drawn into conflict with Magneto by coincidence), this is without a doubt the best issue of the series since "Days of Future Past" and Cockrum's return. Whether rejuvenated by the return of the X-Men's arch-foe or just thankful to be working on a plot that was, at least in part, intended for the book's 150th issue back during his collaboration with Byrne, Claremont finally regains his footing in this issue, once again seamlessly blending the character and action beats into a compelling story, while Cockrum seems to have at last regained his form from his first run, turning in some great images and a fantastically choreographed fight with Magneto. The decision to send the new X-Men, who, we are reminded, have never actually beaten Magneto, into battle with the villain while powerless is inspired, adding a new layer of tension to the story while preventing it from being yet another standard "X-Men vs. Magneto" yarn.    

But this issue is even more significant historically, for it marks both the end of the ranting Silver Age villain incarnation of Magneto and the beginning of the more complicated, three dimensional, partially-reformed iteration of the character. After re-contextualizing the human/mutant conflict in "Days of Future Past"l, here Claremont begins to re-contextualize Magneto. Magneto has always believed that mutants belong on top, ruling over humans, but thanks to "Days of Future Past" and the reveal in this issue of his connection to the Holocaust, for the first time we're left thinking that maybe Magneto is right (at the very least, we have a better understanding of why Magneto wants to subjugate humanity, and are, as a result, more sympathetic, even as we spot the irony that is lost on Magneto). Magneto knows first hand the genocide of which humanity is capable, and the readers know that humanity in the Marvel Universe is more than capable of carrying it out against mutants. The gap between the X-Men and Magneto has begun to narrow towards a point where they both want essentially the same thing, and only disagree over the best means to bring it about.

Nowadays, that's a fairy obvious idea, with Xavier and Magneto often compared to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X by even the most casual of fans (because that relationship has become so integral to the X-Men's mythos that it appears in pretty much all adaptations of the characters), but this issue marks the first step towards the creation of that idea, and in the deepening and development of Magneto's character. That development will eventually stand as Claremont's single biggest post-Byrne contribution to the series.

Next Issue: X-Men Annual #5
The X-Men and the Fantastic Four vs. the Badoon. Yeah, I'm not terribly excited either.

36 comments:

Matt said...

PART ONE OF A TWO-PART COMMENT

This is a fun issue, though as I said in my comments to #149, I feel like it could've worked better as a two-parter. As you state, the X-Men wind up fighting Magneto not as a result of their investigation from last issue, but just because he suddenly pops up and earthquakes an island to death. #149 may as well not have happened, since it did nothing to really set this story up!

"[The Leningrad] will be referenced several times throughout Claremont's run."

Too many times, I think. His trial in #200 should have been the end of it. When they dredged it up in X-Men #1, it was just getting silly! Plus, as Byrne notes, Magneto had no qualms about casually arming atom bombs... so the fact that this was the worst on-page mass-murder he committed shouldn't have meant it was the only such incident. Though as you say, the standards of the Silver Age prevented us from seeing him do anything worse.

"Cyclops is considered to officially rejoin the team with this issue..."

Hooray! Having only read these as back issues, it never really occurred to me till fairly recently that he was gone from the X-Men for a full year of real time! He had a solo spotlight issue and a subplot page or two going for almost the entire time, but still, that seems like quite a while to be away from the main action.

To Be Continued...

Matt said...

PART TWO OF A TWO-PART COMMENT

"Magneto reveals he's created a device which generates an inhibitor field on the island... He's also created a device which allows him to manipulate the Earth's crust, allowing him create earthquakes and volcanoes, which he used to raise his island base from the ocean floor."

I love that we're still in the transitional period where much of the Silver Age silliness is gone, but stuff like this still happens somehow.

"...Corbeau's boat is named Dejah Thoris II..."

Because Dejah Thoris the first was sunk by Sentinels in issue #98.

"Cyclops has a nice moment where he rallies the X-Men..."

I love that seconds after he's reunited with the team, Cyclops usurps Storm's authority and starts giving orders! As I recall, Claremont hints at a quiet power struggle between the two of them a few times over the next twenty or so issues. I feel like more could've come of that tension, but it just sort of dissipated (until #201... sigh).

"The X-Men's emergency pack conveniently contains a spare ruby quartz visor for Cyclops."

I've always thoguht that was funny, but at the same time I wish it came with a whole spare costume for him. His first issue leading the X-Men after a year, and he's stuck in that doofy Atlantean outfit.

"I love Cockrum's depiction of Wolverine with wet hair."

Me too! I intended to comment on that even if you didn't. But you did. And I still am.

"I changed him because I have no interest in two-dimensional villains, except maybe in a one-shot story, perhaps. But Magneto is the major villain of the X-Men book; he is their opposite number. He should be at least as interesting and credible as they are."

If that was all he'd done, I'd be fine with it. It's the fact that he reformed him and turned him into a superhero that bugs me. Especially since, no matter how many times people tell me otherwise, I continue to see it as a total 360, out of nowhere. The last time we saw Magneto (not counting his future self in "Days of Future Past"), he was a "cackling Silver Age villain", as you so accurately describe him. He was the same for the past couple months, and even at the beginning of this issue! Then suddenly he exhibits never before seen feelings of honor as he mourns Jean Grey, and he completely turns on a dime into an entirely different person at the issue's end, because he thinks he killed Kitty. It's ridiculous.

I think I agree with Byrne's take -- Claremont wanted Dr. Doom, but he couldn't have Dr. Doom, so he turned Magneto into Dr. Doom. Why didn't he just create a new villain for his redemption story?

Matt said...

And now, if I may, a personal anecdote about this issue:

When I was in the fifth and sixth grades (1989-91), I was (and had been for almost my whole life) a huge fan of Spider-Man. Tood McFarlane and Erik Larsen were drawing Amazing and McFarlane would soon launch "adjectiveless" Spider-Man, but I didn't like their "weird" styles. Fortunately, more traditional artists like Sal Buscema and Alex Saviuk were on the other two Spider-titles. I didn't know much about Marvel beyond Spidey, the Hulk, Captain America, and the Fantastic Four... the X-Men weren't even on my radar. I'm sure I'd seen them before, but I didn't "get" them.

But a friend of mine, possibly in an attempt to "compete" with my interest in Spider-Man (as kids do for some reason), decided to become a huge fan of the X-Men. Over the course of those two years, he purchased most of the then-new issues, plus some recent back issues such as the "Inferno" stuff. I perused his small Uncanny collection and it didn't appeal to me. The writing was too dense, and somehow seemed to take itself too seriously. It just didn't seem as fun as I thought comics should be. And it certainly wasn't as colorful as Spider-Man and the other heroes I knew! Half the team wore black!

And besides all that, the art by Marc Silvestri (and sometimes Jim Lee), while not as "weird" as McFarlane's and Larsen's stuff, still wasn't the traditional style I liked.

However, my friend also had a small collection of then-current Classic X-Men issues -- there were a couple chapters of "Dark Phoenix", the original Arcade storyline, the Arcade/Dr. Doom trilogy (my friend liked Murderworld), and the reprint of this issue. For whatever reason, it was this issue that caught my eye. Cockrum's art looked even more traditional than Byrne's, and it was bright and colorful and even though serious things happened, it was still a lot of fun! I have no doubt that this is the issue that made me a fan of the X-Men. I didn't start reading them regularly for another year or so, but they were suddenly on my radar and I perused my friend's issues -- mainly the Classic ones -- whenever I was at his house.

So even though I later learned to apperciate the Byrne run more than the Cockrum ones, and even though the second Cockrum run (especially the first half) is somewhat sub-par, it all holds -- and always will hold -- a special place in my comic-collecting heart as the issue that really and truly introduced me to the X-Men, and made me a fan of the franchise, but first and foremost a fan of Cyclops, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, Wolverine, and Kitty Pryde.

(Also: As the 90's really got in gear over the next couple years, I learned to unconditionally love the works of Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, and Erik Larsen in short order -- but McFarlane continued, and still continues, to do nothing for me.)

Teebore said...

@Matt: #149 may as well not have happened, since it did nothing to really set this story up!

Absolutely. And agreed that this would have worked better as a two-parter, especially if #149 was one of those parts!

When they dredged it up in X-Men #1, it was just getting silly!

To be fair, I think it only gets mentioned three more times after this: in #200, again in #274 (when Magneto works alongside a Russian officer whose son was aboard the sub) and then X-Men vol. 2 #1.

I actually really like its appearance in #1. I first read that issue as a back issue, about a year after it was published, when I was first getting into the X-Men. The way the Leningrad was dredged up, complete with a footnote to when Magneto sunk it, told me that there was a big backstory to all these characters and going-ons, something that, contrary to what comics publishers these days believed, was a huge turn-on to this new reader: the idea that that there was history and mythology to explore, beyond what I'd read thus far, is what really turned me into a comic book fan.

So as a result, the presence of the Leningrad in issue #1 has always been, for me, one of those representative "what I love about comics" things.

I love that we're still in the transitional period where much of the Silver Age silliness is gone, but stuff like this still happens somehow.

In his post on this issue, Jason Powell makes a brilliant observation that Magneto's "Earth Crust moving" machine is symbolic of the way Claremont shakes the foundations of the character in this issue, thus establishing a parallel in which the goofy Silver Age device leads to the more three-dimensional Bronze Age portrayal.

Because Dejah Thoris the first was sunk by Sentinels in issue #98.

Ah, good catch. I completely missed that the boat in #98 was the Dejah Thoris, though the scenes aboard the second incarnation in this issue were very reminiscent of those in #98.

As I recall, Claremont hints at a quiet power struggle between the two of them a few times over the next twenty or so issues.

Yeah, I think it actually gets resolved for the most part in issue #154, but it does simmer in the background even after that, leading up to the unfortunate #201.

Teebore said...

It's the fact that he reformed him and turned him into a superhero that bugs me.

I will defend Claremont's Magneto to my dying day. I truly meant it when I said he represents Claremont's greatest post-Byrne contribution to the title, and only the way that "Days of Future Past" fundamentally changed the X-Men's thematic impetus keeps it from being #1.

But for me, it's not that Claremont turned Magneto into a superhero. It's that he turned him into a superhero, then turned him back into a villain, albeit a much more three dimensional one. There's a line in Claremont's last story in which Magneto says to Xavier something along the lines of "I tried it your way and it didn't work. Why won't you try it my way and see if we have better success?", and that has always stuck with me as the definitive take on Magneto.

Yes, Magneto suddenly being affronted when he believes he's killed Kitty in this issue is abrupt (and rather hard to buy) and yes, the JRjr "Big M" costume is ridiculous, but I'll gladly take them in exchange for the nuanced, three dimensional character Magneto becomes from this point forward.

Even more important is the backstory Claremont establishes for Magneto. Making him a Holocaust survivor is a stroke of brilliance, one of those things that makes so much sense and adds so much to the character you wonder why it took this long for someone to think of it.

Magneto has already watched humanity try to eradicate one race; of course he's going to do everything it takes to prevent it from happening again, even if he has to become the type of person who carried out the genocide in the first place. That's just a fantastic bit of motivation, and I'll take that over cackling Horseshoe Magnet Magneto any day.

Then the added revelation that Xavier and Magneto were once friends adds even more to both their characters, giving the broad struggle for the future of mutantkind a personal stake. Xavier isn't just fighting a madman, he's fighting his best friend. It strengthens the convictions of both characters tremendously when we learn they believe in their respective causes so much that they scarified their friendship for them.

Granted, I will freely admit that I am biased, having always grown up in a world where the Magneto/Xavier dynamic and the idea of Magneto as a Holocaust survivor have always existed. Xavier and Magneto as the MLK and Malcolm X of the mutant set is such an elegant and fantastic idea that I simply can't imagine the X-Men without it, and it's really Claremont's work on Magneto from this point forward that makes it work.

So, needless to say, I tend to agree with Claremont over Byrne. :) Dr. Doom is honorable, yes, and wants to rule the world because he truly believes he would make it better, but he's a despot, plain and simple. Magneto is fighting for a cause, fighting to prevent the same tragedy that befell him from befalling mutantkind.

So even though I later learned to apperciate the Byrne run more than the Cockrum ones, and even though the second Cockrum run (especially the first half) is somewhat sub-par, it all holds -- and always will hold -- a special place in my comic-collecting heart as the issue that really and truly introduced me to the X-Men

I had a very similar experience, only with a latter run of Classic X-Men. My great affection for the JRjr run stems from the fact that while I was reading the new comics in the 90s, Classic X-Men was reprinting his run (and back issues of that series were cheaper and plentiful, so I could read more of that run faster than I could the newer issues), and as a result, that really became the formative era of X-Men for me.

It really is all about that "personal Golden Age" when you first encountered the characters, isn't it? :)

Matt said...

"...I think it only gets mentioned three more times after this..."

Hmm, fair enough. I just have it my head that he mopes about it a lot. But that's probably just me projecting my distaste for reformed Magneto onto pages I haven't read in a long time.

Also, I guess I should clarify -- I do appreciate any good nod to continuity the same as you. My issue with the mentions of the Leningrad go back to something I touched on in my first comment -- Magneto (and everyone else) acts like it's the only bad thing he ever did. It somehow becomes the focal point of his entire villainous career. I guess the attempted takeover of Cape Citadel falls into that category, also... but can't we have some justice for Angel's parents' DNA, too??

Okay, that was a joke, but what about the time he took over a country in South America? I feel like that could've been a good thing to touch back on once in a while, rather than just focusing on the Leningrad.

(And to be fair, maybe they do mention some of this at his trial... I haven't read issue #200 in forever.)

"It's that he turned him into a superhero, then turned him back into a villain, albeit a much more three dimensional one."

I can see where you're coming from, but that wasn't really Claremont's original intent, right? Jim Lee and Bob Harras kind of forced him to revert Magneto. If they hadn't, I think Claremont would've kept him as a legitimate good guy for as long as he could.

"Magneto is fighting for a cause, fighting to prevent the same tragedy that befell him from befalling mutantkind."

And I have no problem with that. Give him motivation, make him three-dimensional... that's fine. But I will always believe that the changes to Magneto from Claremont's pen ring false. I feel like a better way to approach it might have been to make him an unrepentant terrorist and mass murderer, but contextualize that and let us know why he is how he is. He could've become the villain we loved to hate, with whom we sometimes sympathized in spite of the horrendous things we saw him do, rather than the reformed villain who, as it conveniently turned out, wasn't as bad as we all thought.

But, to each their own! I will admit that Claremont's Magneto goes through an interesting and sometimes compelling character arc -- especially near the end... but that doesn't change my opinions that A) it came out of nowhere, and B) it would've been better, and probably even something I legitimately enjoyed, if it was done with a character other than Magneto.

"It really is all about that "personal Golden Age" when you first encountered the characters, isn't it?"

Most of the time, yes! Occasionally I will later discover an era where I like the character(s) better than at the point where I first discovered them, but it's rare (and it usually only happens with characters I discovered in the 90's -- and I like a lot of the 90's!).

Blam said...


I know that Pg. 2 is dated, with all those '80s heads of state, but it's also/still just great old-school comic-book stuff.

"All killing will stop." That's not a bad value to hold, although backing it up with a threat to "end life on Earth as you know it" dilutes your moral position a little bit.

the Russian submarine Leningrad launches an array of nuclear missiles at the island, which Magneto easily dispatches before sinking the sub

Kinda makes younger Magneto in the X-Men: First Class movie look like a piker, don't it? I mean, Fassbender notwithstanding...

Corbeau's boat is named Dejah Thoris II

Matt: Because Dejah Thoris the first was sunk by Sentinels in issue #98.

I know that boats have a tendency to use numerals, but I'd have gone with Déjà Thoris myself.

Kitty learned mouth-to-mouth at camp, and Wolverine knows CPR.

Which begs the question of why it isn't instead explained or assumed that all the X-Men know revival techniques as a matter of course.

Magneto's costume is revealed to be like chainmail, allowing him to essentially "pour" it on with his power

I love that.

you can tell exactly who is saying what just based on how their dialogue is written

That's a great point and one that applies to far too few comic-book writers.

Other quick thoughts:

I get that Magneto can project holograms (and do all this other stuff with equipment that he either cobbled together or, perhaps, that already existed in the Atlantean ruins and that he learned how to use; either way, it's very suspect, but whatever). How does he hear what they're saying on the submarine, though?


Magneto alludes to Robert Kennedy's famous paraphrasing of a line in George Bernard Shaw's Back to Methuselah — a line, tellingly, uttered by the Serpent to Adam and Eve — when he says, "For myself, I am tired of seeing things as they are and asking why, of dreaming of things that never were and asking why not. I have the power to make my dreams a reality." Assuming that Magneto was not intending to liken himself to the Deceiver, he very interestingly positions himself as a Homo sapiens superior doer who can go the idealist Kennedy one better because of the power he wields.

I found Storm admiring Magneto's sleeping form even weirder given her similar arousal by Doctor Doom's hot male take-charge nobility a few issues ago — it's kind-of amazing that she doesn't get all hot 'n' bothered by The Sub-Mariner next. Stevie Hunter doesn't stand a chance.

Also, Magneto doesn't strike me as the type who'd leave a dirty plate of food by his bed.

I shall adjourn 'til later, as this morning's migraine is threatening to return.

Blam said...


Hey! E-Mail subscription is back!

Teebore said...

@Matt: And to be fair, maybe they do mention some of this at his trial... I haven't read issue #200 in forever.

I forget in what detail they cover his past, non-Leningrad crimes (though I'm pretty sure the South American country doesn't get brought up), but in the beginning of the trial, Xavier and Gabby Haller successfully argue that Magneto's reversion to infancy constitutes a "clean slate", (essentially that becoming an infant more or less "killed" the man he was) and that only crimes he committed post-becoming an adult again should be judged by the court (all of which, of course, echoes Claremont's statements in the Companion interview along those lines).

So at least as far as the court in issue #200 was concerned, the sinking of the Leningrad was the worst offense, in terms of loss of life, since Magneto hadn't really done all that much public super-villain stuff since issue #104.

I can see where you're coming from, but that wasn't really Claremont's original intent, right? Jim Lee and Bob Harras kind of forced him to revert Magneto.

I don't know for sure that Claremont intended to keep Magneto a hero, though I'm fairly certain he didn't want him to return to outright villainy (and I'd argue that, at least in Claremont's hands, he never really does, even if he ceases being an out-and-out superhero). But I'll freely grant we're splitting hairs at that point, and that yes, Lee and Harras both pushed to at least move Magneto closer to his villainous past.

That said, some of Claremont's best works comes as a result of the push/pull between himself and his collaborators. The Claremont/Lee run is very similar to the Claremont/Byrne run in a lot of ways, and that's one of them. But just because Claremont was pushed into moving Magneto back towards villainy by his collaborators, for me, doesn't change the impact of that development, any more so than the ending of "Dark Phoenix" is changed by the knowledge that Claremont and Byrne were forced into by Shooter.

I feel like a better way to approach it might have been to make him an unrepentant terrorist and mass murderer, but contextualize that and let us know why he is how he is.

I certainly think that could have worked too, and really, that sounds a lot like the Magneto who ran around in the 90s and was generally written somewhere between the "not quite a hero/not quite a villain" position in which Claremont left him and the ranting lunatic villain of the 60s, and while that Magneto wasn't quite as good as Claremont's, I liked him a lot more than a lot of people did in the 90s (but then, like you, I have a lot of fondness for some of the stuff from the 90s).

I will admit that Claremont's Magneto goes through an interesting and sometimes compelling character arc -- especially near the end

And I will admit that the parts of the arc I like the most are the lead-up to #200 and the very end, Uncanny #274-275 and X-Men #1-3, with most of the straight-up hero stuff in the middle being my least favorite (and really, for me, what I do like about reformed Magneto comes more from New Mutants than X-Men, where he never really did much as a "member" of the team).

Teebore said...

@Blam: That's not a bad value to hold, although backing it up with a threat to "end life on Earth as you know it" dilutes your moral position a little bit.

Yeah, even Magneto's demands in this issue are more humanitarian than usual. :)

I'd have gone with Déjà Thoris myself.

Well played, sir.

Which begs the question of why it isn't instead explained or assumed that all the X-Men know revival techniques as a matter of course.

Considering their line of work, yeah, you'd think it'd be part of Xavier's curriculum. I'm sure the Avengers all learned CPR alongside hand-to-hand combat training from Cap. ;)

That's a great point and one that applies to far too few comic-book writers.

Yeah, for example, in general I like a lot of his work and thinks he gets far too much hate online, but Bendis is terrible about that in team books.

How does he hear what they're saying on the submarine, though?

Ha! Good point.

he very interestingly positions himself as a Homo sapiens superior doer who can go the idealist Kennedy one better because of the power he wields.

Excellent point. I meant to point out that paraphrase, but it got lost in the shuffle (there really is a ton of stuff going on in this issue; I probably could have done a two part post just as Claremont should have done a two part issue!)

I found Storm admiring Magneto's sleeping form even weirder given her similar arousal by Doctor Doom's hot male take-charge nobility a few issues ago

That's something else I meant to comment on as well, as it's another indication of the ongoing "Storm is attracted to/attractive to all the villains" trope.

Hey! E-Mail subscription is back!

Huzzah! Never let it be said that Blogger won't eventually fix a problem when it finally gets around to it. :)

But seriously though, I'm really glad that's back.

Jason said...

"In his post on this issue, Jason Powell makes a brilliant observation ..."

Always appreciate the shout-outs, Tee, so thank you.

"Yeah, I think it actually gets resolved for the most part in issue #154, "

I think it's issue 161 that has the Storm/Cyclops stuff really come to a boil. The seed is planted in a scene early on for a very strong friendship between those two characters. I mentioned it on my blog entry for the issue, but I always kind of liked that instead of staying good friends, Storm and Cyclops became rivals. It kind of unintentionally paralleled the Xavier/Magneto arc.

Jason said...

"I forget in what detail they cover his past, non-Leningrad crimes (though I'm pretty sure the South American country doesn't get brought up), but in the beginning of the trial, Xavier and Gabby Haller successfully argue that Magneto's reversion to infancy constitutes a "clean slate", (essentially that becoming an infant more or less "killed" the man he was) and that only crimes he committed post-becoming an adult again should be judged by the court (all of which, of course, echoes Claremont's statements in the Companion interview along those lines). "

Yeah, Claremont was obviously trying to wipe the slate clean of all the Silver Age nonsense.

When Roger Stern did his X-Men vs. Avengers mini, he (as John Byrne notes in your quote) was very much keen to remind people that Magneto was a bastard. In the first issue of that series, Stern very painstakingly recounts all of Magneto's acts of Silver Age villainy. The Leningrad is also brought up yet again, of course. But so is all that stuff Matt mentioned ... the city in South America, etc.

(And now that I think of it, I believe Claremont brought up the Leningrad in the contemporaneous "X-Men vs. Fantastic Four" series. The first issue of that series has She-Hulk, in lawyer mode, talking about the Magneto trial from issue 200. I feel like the Leningrad incident has to have gotten brought up in that scene.)

Matt said...

Teebore -- "...in the beginning of the trial, Xavier and Gabby Haller successfully argue that Magneto's reversion to infancy constitutes a "clean slate"..."

Oh yeah, I totally forgot about that! Okay, in that case I'll let it slide.

Also, I was thinking -- I somehow always forget this -- you might think I've mentally blocked it or something -- but isn't there a bit in X-Men #1-3 where Moira reveals that she tampered with Magneto's DNA while he was a baby in an attempt to make him more benevolent? Never mind that I don't quite think DNA works like that, but I suppose if you consider that ret-con, then maybe in the moment where Magneto believes he's killed Kitty, that alteration is somehow "triggered", explaining his extremely abrupt and hard-to-believe change of heart.

(Though I still believe that before the ret-con was in place, it made no sense.)

Teebore -- "...that sounds a lot like the Magneto who ran around in the 90s and was generally written somewhere between the "not quite a hero/not quite a villain" position in which Claremont left him and the ranting lunatic villain of the 60s..."

Hmm, now that you mention it, you're right. I liked that version of Magneto. He was inarguably way over the top in "Fatal Attractions", but when he finally returned years later for "Magneto War", he had basically become the Magneto that I enjoy most. I believe I mentioned it here some time ago, but "Magneto as ruler of Genosha" is quite possibly my all-time favorite status quo for the guy.

Blam said...



Matt: I have no doubt that this is the issue that made me a fan of the X-Men.

You had good taste in preferring the "old" stuff to what was current then, IMO. 8^)

And God bless reprint series like Classic X-Men. My own childhood was filled with reprints from dedicated series like Marvel Tales and Marvel Triple Action to DC's great 100-Page Super-Spectaculars to treasury editions from both of the Big Two to reprint paperback and hardcovers from Pocket, Fireside, and Harmony/Bonanza. TPBs collecting specific storylines from the comic-book publishers themselves didn't start 'til a bit later, and it was a long time before we had comprehensive reprint programs like there are today.

Matt: I learned to unconditionally love the works of Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, and Erik Larsen in short order -- but McFarlane continued, and still continues, to do nothing for me.

Hmm... I'm tempted to take back a smidgen of my compliment on your good taste, but I can see value in the works of Lee, Silvestri, and Larsen even if I wouldn't use anything like the phrase "unconditionally love". Even McFarlane's earliest work, on DC's Infinity Inc., intrigued me in terms of his creative layouts, but I hated his actual rendering and the finishing/inking of Tony DeZuniga on top of it. His later Marvel and then Image work was and is just terrible to me, as is Liefeld's stuff. Larsen, I think, is by far the most solid draftsman, although I was surprised by Lee on Batman: Hush; Larsen is also — fairly ironically in terms of the whole Peter David CBG "Name Withheld" brouhaha, which I lived through — by far the best writer in the bunch. I never got into The Savage Dragon the way some friends did, but I appreciate his creativity and work ethic on it, and I actually like Larsen's Defenders run with Kurt Busiek. I dump a lot of hate Lee's way on my still as-yet-unpublished blogpost(s) on the DC New 52 Justice League, although that of course applies to his art; the guy seems like a genuinely nice fellow, fan, and family man. I didn't last long on the new adjectiveless X-Men when it started up under Claremont/Lee, nor on Uncanny X-Men with, I think, Whilce Portacio drawing, but at least I got some sellable "collector's item" issues out of the curiosity buys.

Jason said...

"Also, I was thinking -- I somehow always forget this -- you might think I've mentally blocked it or something -- but isn't there a bit in X-Men #1-3 where Moira reveals that she tampered with Magneto's DNA while he was a baby in an attempt to make him more benevolent? Never mind that I don't quite think DNA works like that, but I suppose if you consider that ret-con, then maybe in the moment where Magneto believes he's killed Kitty, that alteration is somehow "triggered", explaining his extremely abrupt and hard-to-believe change of heart."

Not exactly. The seed was planted in a backup story by Claremont in Classic X-Men 19, which suggests that an aspect of Magneto's power has an effect on his brain. The story strongly suggests that the traumas he suffered throughout his life, in tandem with the effect that manipulating magnetism was having on his mental functions, combined to create the criminally insane (as it were) Magneto.

In X-Men 1-3, we learn that Moira figured this out while Magneto was a baby, and attempted to "correct" Magneto at the genetic level -- she wanted to fix what she calls the "instability" in how his mutation interacts with brain functions -- and in so doing she could prevent him from growing up insane a second time.

The fuzzy logic comes in in that she then somehow does behavior modification on the rest of the X-Men ... which doesn't exactly make sense, because it wasn't behavior modification she was doing on Magneto, not really -- she was correcting some sort of genetic flaw. But in anycase, the upshot is that the X-Men shake off the brainwashing in like two days or something, which proves that Moira's methodology did not work, and therefore whatever she did to Magneto was a dud. All the choices he made during Claremont's run were -- we are told -- made on his own. So the seeming ret-con turns out actually to be a red herring.

That said, we're still left with the notion that Magneto's villainous tendencies are the result of a mental instability resulting from how his powers work.

I'd highly recommend googling "Rivka Jakobs Magneto" ... she has a pretty brilliant analysis of Magneto as a character -- his biography, his psychology, his Judaism, etc. -- spread over the course of several essays. Speaking for myself, her writing are part of what made me realize just what an amazing accomplishment Claremont's Magneto is. In my opinion it's one of the most three-dimensional psychological portraits that's been constructed in any superhero comic, ever.

(Whether looking for three-dimensionality in the pages of superhero comics is a worthwhile endeavor in the first place, well, I suppose that's another debate entirely.)

Blam said...


I forgot to mention this earlier, but various scenes in #150 — Magneto seen casually without his helmet, Professor X attacking him psionically from afar with his helmet on — reminded me that Magneto's helmet shielding him from telepathic attack is, as far as I know, a conceit introduced in the first X-Men film. Am I right about that, or did any of the comic-book writers introduce either a new such helmet or the idea that the helmet always had such properties (never mind it not working that way in older stories) when I wasn't reading? I do have large swaths of ignorance about the mutant titles post-1986.

Matt said...

Jason -- "So the seeming ret-con turns out actually to be a red herring."

Thanks for the memory refresher! I'm not sure why I have such difficulty recalling the exact events of X-Men #1-3. I've read those issues several times -- though admittedly the last time was probably about a decade ago.

Jason -- "I'd highly recommend googling "Rivka Jakobs Magneto"."

I'll look into this, thanks.

By the way, I just wanted to mention that I've read and enjoyed your entire series on Chris Claremont's X-Men run. Though the whole run isn't exactly for me, I liked your often thought-provoking analyses. About a year or so ago I left a series of frothing pro-Bob Harras comments on several of the last entries, but hopefully that didn't come across as me disliking your work!

Blam -- "...Magneto's helmet shielding him from telepathic attack is, as far as I know, a conceit introduced in the first X-Men film..."

I'm not one hundred percent positive, but I think you may be right. At least, when I was an avid RPG player in the 80's and 90's, I don't recall any Marvel RPG stats listing Magneto's helmet as anything other than standard armor. And those games were pretty meticulous -- they included Magneto's seldom-used ability to enter the astral plane! And if they remembered that, I'm pretty sure they would've remembered any psychic shielding, if indeed his helmet had been known to provide it at the time.

Jason said...

"By the way, I just wanted to mention that I've read and enjoyed your entire series on Chris Claremont's X-Men run. Though the whole run isn't exactly for me, I liked your often thought-provoking analyses. About a year or so ago I left a series of frothing pro-Bob Harras comments on several of the last entries, but hopefully that didn't come across as me disliking your work!"

Ah, thank you, Matt!

I do remember those comments! I am a little tough on Mr. Harras, tis true. But only because I hate him. :)

No, I actually do like some of the stuff that happened under his editorship. I just found it a little conservative and uninteresting, coming on the heels of the Nocenti era, when things were so marvelously insane.

Teebore said...

@Jason: I mentioned it on my blog entry for the issue, but I always kind of liked that instead of staying good friends, Storm and Cyclops became rivals.

Me too, especially since there's a moment, in issue #154 I think, where it starts to seem like maybe Claremont is hitting at a relationship between the two, and I like the idea of friendly rivals much, much more.

Stern very painstakingly recounts all of Magneto's acts of Silver Age villainy.

As I'm not a huge fan of that mini, I've only read it maybe once, so I'd completely forgotten about that. What bugs me the most about it is, even if, as a writer, you happen to disagree with the direction another writer is taking a character, it seems like poor form to step in, while that other writer is still handling the character, and try to force the character back to the characterization you prefer.

Putting aside that I happen to like Claremont's version of Magneto more than Byrne/Stern's vision of him, what really bugs me about Avengers vs. X-Men is the way it creates this bubble of inconsistency in Magneto's portrayal at the time (this of course happens again later in Claremont's run with "Acts of Vengeance"). Once a writer leaves a book, those characters are fair game, but I don't like the idea of trying to undercut the writer while he's still working on the book.

@Matt: I believe I mentioned it here some time ago, but "Magneto as ruler of Genosha" is quite possibly my all-time favorite status quo for the guy.

I also really like that status quo.

Teebore said...

@Jason: Speaking for myself, her writing are part of what made me realize just what an amazing accomplishment Claremont's Magneto is.

As it is your writing that elevated Claremont's Magneto in my esteem from "my favorite iteration of the character" to "one of Claremont's greatest achievements", I will definitely have to check out her stuff as well.

@Blam: Magneto's helmet shielding him from telepathic attack is, as far as I know, a conceit introduced in the first X-Men film.

I really want to say that was established in the comics prior to the movie, but I can't for the life of me think of when...and could very well be confusing it in my head with the ability of Juggernaut's helmet to block him from telepathy.

Jason said...

"As I'm not a huge fan of that mini, I've only read it maybe once, so I'd completely forgotten about that."

I'm not a huge fan either, although I like the early work by Silvestri. (I think it was his work on that that brought him to the attention of Ann Nocenti.) And I only remember the bit I mentioned because I recently paged through the TPB in a store. :)

"What bugs me the most about it is, even if, as a writer, you happen to disagree with the direction another writer is taking a character, it seems like poor form to step in, while that other writer is still handling the character, and try to force the character back to the characterization you prefer."

I'd tend to agree. It's interesting that unlike Byrne, Stern seems to be pretty well-respected in the industry as a gentlemen. So it's surprising to me he tried to pull a move like this. It's totally expected from Byrne (the guy who messed with Magneto in Acts of Vengeance), but it seems out of character for Stern.

" Once a writer leaves a book, those characters are fair game, but I don't like the idea of trying to undercut the writer while he's still working on the book. "

Agreed. I'm glad Claremont pretty much completely ignored the events of Avengers vs. X-Men (except for a passing, dismissive reference in a New Mutants annual at the time). Good on you, Chris!

Matt said...

I've never read X-Men vs. Avengers, but I know of it, and the thing that's always confused me is: my understanding was that in the Shooter days, if one office wanted to make any major changes to a character from another family, they needed to get special permission to do so from that character's normal editor.

So how did this mini even get off the ground, if it was going to perform such a sweeping change to Magneto? Obviously Claremont and/or Nocenti wouldn't have agreed to it. Did the Avengers folks just start producing the thing unilaterally? It makes no sense.

Anyway, Teebore -- will you be reviewing that series? It's not Claremont, but it does have the X-Men's name on the cover... and for that matter, what about other X-Men mini-series and/or one-shots, like the one with the Micronauts? I'm assuming you'll do the F.F. one, since Claremont wrote it... but since this series is about all X-Men stuff and not just the Claremont material, I'm curious.

Jason said...

'So how did this mini even get off the ground, if it was going to perform such a sweeping change to Magneto? Obviously Claremont and/or Nocenti wouldn't have agreed to it. Did the Avengers folks just start producing the thing unilaterally? It makes no sense."

I've often wondered the same thing. I wonder if the full story is out on the net somewhere ... must explore ...

Teebore said...

@Matt: So how did this mini even get off the ground, if it was going to perform such a sweeping change to Magneto?

I've often wondered about that too, but have yet to encounter a good explanation.

what about other X-Men mini-series and/or one-shots, like the one with the Micronauts?

My plan, at least until things get really crazy in the mid to late 90s, is to cover everything, including the miniseries and one shots (and even some more ancillary stuff, like the Longshot mini). Though I won't be covering all the X-Men guest appearances in other titles, just the ones (like Avengers Annual 10) that have a significant impact on the main series or that I particularly enjoy.

I've never actually read the X-Men/Micronauts mini, and thought about leaving it off because I'm not terribly familiar with the Micronauts, but the completest in me won't allow that, and I am kind of curious to write about something for this series that I've never read before.

Blam said...


Matt: At least, when I was an avid RPG player in the 80's and 90's, I don't recall any Marvel RPG stats listing Magneto's helmet as anything other than standard armor. And those games were pretty meticulous -- they included Magneto's seldom-used ability to enter the astral plane!

Were you playing the actual Marvel Super-Heroes RPG? I remember it being a real letdown that the stats for, say, Strength were just, like, Strong, Really Strong, Super-Strong... Champions and the DC Heroes RPG (I never tried V&V) were much more familiarly points-oriented like D&D and could easily accommodate characters from any "universe" so I gave up on MSH pretty quickly.

Blam said...


Teebore: I really want to say that was established in the comics prior to the movie, but I can't for the life of me think of when...and could very well be confusing it in my head with the ability of Juggernaut's helmet to block him from telepathy.

Having poked around a bit I find that it has been used that way in the comics but not necessarily before 2000's X-Men movie. What's so "funny" about that is that the movie usage makes perfect sense, and I totally get why they wanted to have a reason for Magneto to wear such an awkward thing in a live-action movie, but they went to the trouble of making the helmet entirely purple (when, hell, it could've been silver or even ebony to go with Magneto's all-black outfit) yet the lining of his cape was red instead of purple and clashed with the helmet horribly. Ah well.

Matt: I've never read X-Men vs. Avengers, but I know of it, and the thing that's always confused me is: my understanding was that in the Shooter days, if one office wanted to make any major changes to a character from another family, they needed to get special permission to do so from that character's normal editor.

To be precise, you could do whatever you wanted but Shooter would catch it at the last minute before it was printed and make you rework the issue. No, wait, that's if you working on your own characters...

I've never read X-Men vs. Avengers either, as it came out right after I'd dropped the regular title, not liking the direction it was going and sick of all the spinoffs too. Just a few years earlier, though, I was right in the throes of my X-Men mania; I picked up not only The X-Men and the Micronauts, despite not reading The Micronauts, but the one-shot Obnoxio the Clown vs. the X-Men and, eventually, the elusive Dallas Times Herald giveaway The Uncanny X-Men at the State Fair of Texas (totally not worth it except for bragging rights). I haven't read any of these since back in the day, unlike genuinely good stuff like X-Men / Alpha Flight, so I'm really looking forward to covering them here.

VW: daymews — My cat's morning wake-up call.

Matt said...

Blam -- "Were you playing the actual Marvel Super-Heroes RPG?"

Yup, it was TSR's Marvel Super Heroes Advanced Game. I played that off and on with my friends from the fifth grade all the way up to the end of high school.

When we were in college, TSR released a new card-based Marvel RPG, called Marvel Super Heroes Saga Edition. We played that one through college and for a year or two after, until everyone moved away. I still miss playing those games sometimes!

I never tried Champions, I think because it wasn't based on anything. I had DC Heroes, but I barely understood it. Every character had something like nine stats for some reason! And all the point calculations and such gave me a headache. It sometimes felt more like math homework than a game.

"...the stats for, say, Strength were just, like, Strong, Really Strong, Super-Strong..."

Feeble, Poor, Good, Excellent, Remarkable, Incredible, Amazing, Monstrous, Unearthly. :-)

I will never forget that scale for as long as I live!

(And technically if you want to get really fancy, the full scale went: Shift-0, Feeble, Poor, Good, Excellent, Remarkable, Incredible, Amazing, Monstrous, Unearthly, Shift-X, Shift-Y, Shift-Z, Class 1000, Class 3000, Class 5000, Beyond.)

Jason said...

Got an answer from Roger Stern himself!

He wrote:

"
Well, in the first place, I wasn't planning on making any sweeping change in Magneto. Mind you, I thought the idea of the X-Men (and their readers) so easily believing that Magneto was "a good guy now" and accepted as their leader/teacher in Xavier's absence was at the very least unwise. But that had become the status quo in the X-books, and it wasn't my place to monkey with it. I intended to just ignore it.

But then, the marketing folk decided that there should be an Avengers vs. X-Men miniseries (and a Fantastic Four vs. the Avengers) miniseries. And I was told that if I didn't write it, someone else would.

With that hanging over my head, I had to deal with the fact that a notorious international terrorist was in charge on the X-Men.

So, I had to come up with a way of allowing Magneto to go on doing what he was doing in the X-Men, without making the Avengers look foolish for letting him go.

I thought I had. I outlined the entire miniseries before I started, and got it approved. I wouldn't have even started on the project without that approval.

But then, after the final plot was written, everything was changed. And I never got an answer as to why.

So I passed on scripting the final issue.

If I'd known that I was soon going to be fired from the Avengers, I probably would have passed on the entire project."

So speaks Rog!

I also found a transcript online of Stern's original proposal, which is completely different from what saw print. i.e., even the issues of Avengers vs X-Men that Stern wrote are not what he proposed. The original version actually sounds much cooler, and with more fight scenes. :)

Teebore said...

@Jason: Got an answer from Roger Stern himself!

Wow, Jason, that's fantastic! Thanks for tracking it down and sharing it with us.

Good to know it was just a series that got away from Stern, and that Stern himself wasn't trying to push his vision of the character.

Matt said...

I guess that settles that! I'm glad Roger Stern is so candid and honest with his behind-the-scenes anecdotes. I know there's really no reason I should trust his recollections any more or less than any other pro, but for whatever reason, I tend to believe that if "Uncle Rog" said it, it must be accurate and true.

Interesting that the marketing department was dictating things as early as 1987... I usually hear about them being heavily involved starting during the boom of the early 90's. I wonder when they actually got involved with the creative process for the very first time?

I know Gerry Conway was forced in the 70's to come up with a "Spider-mobile" against his will, but I think that was really just because a toy company came to Stan Lee and wanted him to create one. Not sure that counts as "marketing", per se.

Matt said...

Just occurred to me -- maybe it was Secret Wars? The mini-series was conceived to sell action figures as a response to Kenner's Super Powers line... but again, from what I've read, that was Mattel coming to Marvel and pitching a toyline with a comic book tie-in. I'm trying to think of an occasion when the marketing department might have specifically come up with the idea first and then pitched it to creative and any outside parties.

Teebore, your blog needs a message board so I can stop going off in random directions in all my comments. Though honestly, I don't think that would stop me.

Teebore said...

@Matt: I wonder when they actually got involved with the creative process for the very first time?

That's a good question. I suppose it depends on the definition of "marketing". The marketing department as we think of it now, yeah, probably Secret Wars. But that certainly wasn't the first time financial concerns outside the comics led to stories within them, like the aforementioned Spider-Mobile or the various licensed properties or heck, even Stan Lee's idea to cross characters over into other titles to help boost sales.

your blog needs a message board so I can stop going off in random directions in all my comments.

Nah, message boards get too unwieldy and hard to maintain; besides, half the fun of the comments of these posts are seeing what random tangents we go off on!

Blam said...


Matt: I'm glad Roger Stern is so candid and honest with his behind-the-scenes anecdotes.

He's definitely one of the good guys. At some point I called him out, as friendly as possible, for having to toe the company line and insist that there were no plans to bring Superman back when I interviewed him in 1992 about "The Death of..."; he was apologetic and said that when he did all those interviews he tried to speak as carefully and literally as possible.

Matt: Interesting that the marketing department was dictating things as early as 1987...

I highly doubt that it was the marketing department per se dictating things as opposed to the marketing / business sensibilities of the higher-up editorial and publishing staff who had to worry about things like keeping characters in trademark by guest-starring them and using their logos periodically, introducing characters ( Spider-Woman, for instance, as discussed here recently) to expand trademarks and/or prevent others from encroaching on Marvel's territory, having primacy over licensing partners (in the case of She-Hulk, say, or the Spider-Mobile), and generally recognizing that fan-favorite characters allowed for milking money from fans' wallets — especially as the Marvel zombie and subsets like die-hard X-Men or Punisher collectors became a real traceable thing.

Secret Wars may have had a marketing impetus in the general sense, crossing over all its characters for guaranteed big sales and, as you say, potentially making for a toy line, but it predated The X-Men vs. The Avengers (indicia title per GCD) by a while. I also recall it, and The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, being done in anticipation of Crisis on Infinite Earths and Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe, which DC had long had in the works for its 50th anniversary, allowing Marvel to say that DC had cribbed its projects from "The House of Ideas" even though it was generally acknowledged within the industry as rather the opposite.

Blam said...


I see that our host beat me to the punch on parsing Stern's inexact use of "the marketing folk". That's what I get for not refreshing the page!

Teebore: besides, half the fun of the comments of these posts are seeing what random tangents we go off on

I'm always glad to hear you say this. 8^)

Jason said...

"Secret Wars may have had a marketing impetus in the general sense, crossing over all its characters for guaranteed big sales and, as you say, potentially making for a toy line,"

There was no "potentially" about it. The Secret Wars miniseries was created specifically to sell toys.

Blam said...


I was getting tired and mistyped. What I meant to say was "making for a potentially successful toy line" (to rival Super Powers), in contrast to the virtually guaranteed big sales of the crossover. I had been reading fan mags like Amazing Heroes for a while at that point, going to conventions for even longer, and I must say that the buzz over Secret Wars — the miniseries itself, and the changes for each involved character that it would bring — was not something I (granted, about 13 at the time) had seen or felt before.